Among its many provisions, the Affordable Care Act requires chain restaurants to label their menus with calorie counts. The Food and Drug Administration is writing the final ground rules on this but has found itself entangled in a big fight over one seemingly small provision: Should the regulations cover movie theaters?
Movie theaters lobbied aggressively against the idea (Bloomberg News had a great story on this). And, in draft rules, they were successful: The FDA decided that movie theaters were among a small handful of establishments that serve food but would not have to provide lists of caloric content (amusement parks, airplanes and trains also fall into this category).The ice cream parlor lobby was, apparently, less successful, as its establishments are among those that will have to provide menu labels.
Now, as the FDA works on the final rule, consumer advocates are pushing back, circulating a petition to get movie theaters covered. They argue that since movie theater food tends to be very high in calories, consumers should know what they’re getting into. “Did you know that one medium popcorn from Regal Cinemas contains 1,200 calories?” The Center for Science in the Public Interest asks in its new petition (hat tip: Commonhealth). “If someone is selling you a 1,200-calorie snack, the least they could do is tell you!” They’ve also produced a video on the subject that you can see above.
Popcorn battles aside, there’s also a larger question of whether menu labeling actually achieves its goal: getting Americans to eat healthier. Recent studies have found that adding caloric information to restaurant menus has had little impact on patrons’ eating choices.